I HAD shut the door to. Then I turned around and there he was. I used to b_cared of him all the time, he tanned me so much. I reckoned I was scared now,
too; but in a minute I see I was mistaken—that is, after the first jolt, a_ou may say, when my breath sort of hitched, he being so unexpected; but righ_way after I see I warn't scared of him worth bothring about.
He was most fifty, and he looked it. His hair was long and tangled and greasy,
and hung down, and you could see his eyes shining through like he was behin_ines. It was all black, no gray; so was his long, mixed-up whiskers. Ther_arn't no color in his face, where his face showed; it was white; not lik_nother man's white, but a white to make a body sick, a white to make a body'_lesh crawl—a tree-toad white, a fish-belly white. As for his clothes—jus_ags, that was all. He had one ankle resting on t'other knee; the boot on tha_oot was busted, and two of his toes stuck through, and he worked them now an_hen. His hat was laying on the floor—an old black slouch with the top cave_n, like a lid.
I stood a-looking at him; he set there a-looking at me, with his chair tilte_ack a little. I set the candle down. I noticed the window was up; so he ha_lumb in by the shed. He kept a-looking me all over. By and by he says:
"Starchy clothes—very. You think you're a good deal of a big-bug, DON'T you?"
"Maybe I am, maybe I ain't," I says.
"Don't you give me none o' your lip," says he. "You've put on considerabl_any frills since I been away. I'll take you down a peg before I get done wit_ou. You're educated, too, they say—can read and write. You think you'r_etter'n your father, now, don't you, because he can't? I'LL take it out o_ou. Who told you you might meddle with such hifalut'n foolishness, hey?—wh_old you you could?"
"The widow. She told me."
"The widow, hey?—and who told the widow she could put in her shovel about _hing that ain't none of her business?"
"Nobody never told her."
"Well, I'll learn her how to meddle. And looky here—you drop that school, yo_ear? I'll learn people to bring up a boy to put on airs over his own fathe_nd let on to be better'n what HE is. You lemme catch you fooling around tha_chool again, you hear? Your mother couldn't read, and she couldn't write,
nuther, before she died. None of the family couldn't before THEY died. _an't; and here you're a- swelling yourself up like this. I ain't the man t_tand it—you hear? Say, lemme hear you read."
I took up a book and begun something about General Washington and the wars.
When I'd read about a half a minute, he fetched the book a whack with his han_nd knocked it across the house. He says:
"It's so. You can do it. I had my doubts when you told me. Now looky here; yo_top that putting on frills. I won't have it. I'll lay for you, my smarty; an_f I catch you about that school I'll tan you good. First you know you'll ge_eligion, too. I never see such a son."
He took up a little blue and yaller picture of some cows and a boy, and says:
"It's something they give me for learning my lessons good."
He tore it up, and says:
"I'll give you something better—I'll give you a cowhide."
He set there a-mumbling and a-growling a minute, and then he says:
"AIN'T you a sweet-scented dandy, though? A bed; and bedclothes; and _ook'n'-glass; and a piece of carpet on the floor—and your own father got t_leep with the hogs in the tanyard. I never see such a son. I bet I'll tak_ome o' these frills out o' you before I'm done with you. Why, there ain't n_nd to your airs—they say you're rich. Hey?—how's that?"
"They lie—that's how."
"Looky here—mind how you talk to me; I'm a-standing about all I can stan_ow—so don't gimme no sass. I've been in town two days, and I hain't hear_othing but about you bein' rich. I heard about it away down the river, too.
That's why I come. You git me that money to-morrow—I want it."
"I hain't got no money."
"It's a lie. Judge Thatcher's got it. You git it. I want it."
"I hain't got no money, I tell you. You ask Judge Thatcher; he'll tell you th_ame."
"All right. I'll ask him; and I'll make him pungle, too, or I'll know th_eason why. Say, how much you got in your pocket? I want it."
"I hain't got only a dollar, and I want that to—"
"It don't make no difference what you want it for—you just shell it out."
He took it and bit it to see if it was good, and then he said he was goin_own town to get some whisky; said he hadn't had a drink all day. When he ha_ot out on the shed he put his head in again, and cussed me for putting o_rills and trying to be better than him; and when I reckoned he was gone h_ome back and put his head in again, and told me to mind about that school,
because he was going to lay for me and lick me if I didn't drop that.
Next day he was drunk, and he went to Judge Thatcher's and bullyragged him,
and tried to make him give up the money; but he couldn't, and then he swor_e'd make the law force him.
The judge and the widow went to law to get the court to take me away from hi_nd let one of them be my guardian; but it was a new judge that had just come,
and he didn't know the old man; so he said courts mustn't interfere an_eparate families if they could help it; said he'd druther not take a chil_way from its father. So Judge Thatcher and the widow had to quit on th_usiness.
That pleased the old man till he couldn't rest. He said he'd cowhide me till _as black and blue if I didn't raise some money for him. I borrowed thre_ollars from Judge Thatcher, and pap took it and got drunk, and went a-blowin_round and cussing and whooping and carrying on; and he kept it up all ove_own, with a tin pan, till most midnight; then they jailed him, and next da_hey had him before court, and jailed him again for a week. But he said HE wa_atisfied; said he was boss of his son, and he'd make it warm for HIM.
When he got out the new judge said he was a-going to make a man of him. So h_ook him to his own house, and dressed him up clean and nice, and had him t_reakfast and dinner and supper with the family, and was just old pie to him,
so to speak. And after supper he talked to him about temperance and suc_hings till the old man cried, and said he'd been a fool, and fooled away hi_ife; but now he was a-going to turn over a new leaf and be a man nobod_ouldn't be ashamed of, and he hoped the judge would help him and not loo_own on him. The judge said he could hug him for them words; so he cried, an_is wife she cried again; pap said he'd been a man that had always bee_isunderstood before, and the judge said he believed it. The old man said tha_hat a man wanted that was down was sympathy, and the judge said it was so; s_hey cried again. And when it was bedtime the old man rose up and held out hi_and, and says:
"Look at it, gentlemen and ladies all; take a-hold of it; shake it. There's _and that was the hand of a hog; but it ain't so no more; it's the hand of _an that's started in on a new life, and'll die before he'll go back. You mar_hem words—don't forget I said them. It's a clean hand now; shake it—don't b_feard."
So they shook it, one after the other, all around, and cried. The judge's wif_he kissed it. Then the old man he signed a pledge—made his mark. The judg_aid it was the holiest time on record, or something like that. Then the_ucked the old man into a beautiful room, which was the spare room, and in th_ight some time he got powerful thirsty and clumb out on to the porch-roof an_lid down a stanchion and traded his new coat for a jug of forty-rod, an_lumb back again and had a good old time; and towards daylight he crawled ou_gain, drunk as a fiddler, and rolled off the porch and broke his left arm i_wo places, and was most froze to death when somebody found him after sun-up.
And when they come to look at that spare room they had to take sounding_efore they could navigate it.
The judge he felt kind of sore. He said he reckoned a body could reform th_ld man with a shotgun, maybe, but he didn't know no other way.